- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Over the next few weeks, we'll take a closer look at the Bulls' personnel and see where they fit in for the future.
Season recap: Thibodeau once again proved during the regular season why he is one of the best coaches in the league. He pushed his team to a league best 50-16 record. For the second consecutive year, he got his players to buy into his system, despite not having Derrick Rose for 27 games. For as well as the Bulls played during the regular season, they completely fell apart when Rose went down in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals and Joakim Noah went down in Game 3. Obviously, the emotional impact of losing Rose was too much to overcome. The reality for Thibodeau is that the Bulls still had a chance to win the series if they had made a few more plays down the stretch.
Season highlight: The best regular season win of the year, and probably in several years, came March 14 when the Bulls knocked off the Miami Heat without Rose in the lineup. The Heat were relatively healthy; LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all played, but it was John Lucas III and Kyle Korver who made big shots when the Bulls needed them most. Thibodeau made his team believe they could still win on that night and that's what they did.
Season lowlight: For Thibodeau, and the rest of the city of Chicago, the season lowlight is obvious: April 28. That's the day Rose blew out his ACL and the Bulls' season effectively ended.
Notes: Thibodeau's team played hard almost every single night, but there's a faction of fans that continue to wonder if the veteran coach pushes them too hard during the regular season and wears them out by the time the playoffs roll around. While it's unfair to judge Thibodeau on the end of the season because of the injuries to Rose and Noah, it is a storyline worth watching. So is the fact that Marc Stein reported midway through the season that Thibodeau was upset with the way his contract negotiations were being handled.
Quote: "I think we all feel awful for him," the Bulls' head coach said the day after Rose's injury. "Derrick's not only a great player, he's a great teammate, he's a great person, but it's not a death sentence. It's not a death sentence for him, it's not a death sentence for our team. He's going to come back, he'll come back better than ever, it's just the way it is and we've got to deal with it."
What's next?: Thibodeau and Bulls GM Gar Forman continue to talk about an extension but one has not been worked out up to this point. Forman has already stated that Thibodeau's option will be picked up next year, but after that remains cloudy at this point. After winning the coach of the year award in his first season and almost winning it again this past year, Thibodeau now has another chance to prove how good of a coach he is considering he will probably be without Rose and Luol Deng (wrist) for a large chunk of next season.
FINAL GRADES: Regular Season: A. Postseason: C.
10hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
11hJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info
3dMatt Walks, ESPN.com